Companies may be reluctant to hire new IT professionals, but only a scant 6 percent of them plan third-quarter layoffs, according to the Robert Half Technology IT Hiring Index and Skills Report.

Eight percent of 1,400 chief information officers recently surveyed by the staffing firm expect to hire full-time employees during the third quarter. The majority, 85 percent, plan to stick with their current staffing levels.

Despite the lukewarm results, CIOs say they continue to have a hard time finding network administration (LAN, WAN), desktop support and Windows administration (Server 2000/2003) professionals.

The CIOs also say the areas experiencing the most job growth are networking (16 percent of respondents), help desk and tech support (15 percent), and applications development (11 percent).

The survey turned up regional hiring differences. The three regions tied for the strongest hiring forecasts in the third quarter: South Atlantic, East South Central and Pacific.

RHT also noted hiring demand differences among industry sectors, with some of the hardest-hit industries - like finance and real estate - now increasing their hiring. Other gainers included transportation, communications, utilities, professional services firms and insurance companies.

"Companies are adding staff at a steady but moderate pace," says RHT Executive Director Dave Willmer. "Managers are watching budgets closely and concentrating hiring activity primarily on customer-facing roles such as help desk and desktop support."

Twenty percent of technology executives expect to add a mix of full-time and contract or project workers during the third quarter. When hiring full-time staff, 88 percent plan to recruit IT professionals at the staff level (up to five years of experience). Twenty percent plan to hire at the manager, senior manager or director level.

Read more survey results, including regional trends and which jobs are most in demand, here.

-- Dona DeZube